The Importance of Twitch Chat

One of the most common pieces of advice when it comes to the internet is simply, “don’t read the comments.” Whether it’s arguments about Justin Bieber on YouTube music videos or angry and insensitive comments on an article about a sensitive topic, comment sections can become minefields. It makes sense that we’re advised to ignore comment sections. However, while that’s generally sound advice, I think that it’s a mistake to believe that comment sections do not matter at all, especially in our current environment where social connections (both strong and weak) are made through online media.

Nowhere is this more relevant than with sites that utilize live chat feeds, such as Nico Nico Douga and Twitch. The difference between watching a game on Twitch with and without chat is basically the difference between watching alone or watching with a crowd. For those who want to share in the excitement of something as it happens (like a virtual crowd at a pro wrestling event), it becomes a vital part of the spectator experience. At that point, it’s not just about wanting to see comments or not, it’s about being a part of a collective bonding.

If you want to know how important the live chat is to Twitch, you only need to look at one of their more recent developments: saved chat logs for VODs. In the past, if you wanted to see what the chat was like for a previously recorded stream, your only hope was that someone captured it with the chat in progress. Now, anyone can step in a week or a month after a broadcast and see what people were saying at the time, and in many ways it enriches the experience. Imagine watching an old football game or something and having the crowd muted out. It certainly wouldn’t be the same, and while I understand that by not watching it live the experience changes anyway, there’s now a middle point.

This brings me to what I really wanted to talk about: the degree to which Twitch chat can become an unwelcoming place, and the potential harm it can cause. For me, personally, I experience this when I watch a Smash 4 tournament, and the chat is inundated with comments about how boring the game is, and how people can’t wait for Melee. It doesn’t matter how interesting the actual game being played is, people are ready to criticize and diminish its value. I think Smash 4 is awesome, and to some extent the trolls are just being trolls, but it results in an inhospitable environment that can turn away people who potentially have interest in a game. Perhaps they see huge portions of the chat calling the game a snooze fest, and think, “If this many people are saying that, maybe it is boring after all.” Or perhaps they just don’t want to deal with all of the nonsense and would prefer to watch another game with a chat that isn’t secretly hoping for the clown from Showtime at the Apollo to drag away what’s currently on.

That’s only a “your game vs. my game” scenario, though. Consider the tendency for Twitch chats to explode with comments whenever a girl appears on stream. I understand, lots of guys are horny, and by connecting to Twitch through one’s own personal devices, be they computers, mobile phones, or whatever, there’s a sense that what you’re seeing is merely an extension of your private space. Talking with your friends about how that girl was incredibly hot isn’t a bad thing, but stream and chat become this nebulous space where private and public intersect, and it’s not surprising that women would choose to hide their identities in chat, or prefer not to participate in the zoo that is Twitch chat (though that zoo can be fun and positive too).

In fact, I think comments online in general are a kind of extension of private space into public territories that can be both welcome and unwelcome. In a way, this blog is doing the same thing, as is Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else people are placing a part of themselves into their words. Social media and the internet as it exists today is not a separate entity from the real world. Ignoring elements of “IRL” space can be done too, but it usually comes with the awareness that it is cutting you off from a certain experience and resonance with others. Doing the same online might be necessary at times, but we shouldn’t act like the solution is to just encourage everyone to turn their eyes away from the problems that exist. The problems themselves need to be addressed too.

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Mario Shoryukens Luigi: Ura Tougeki, Tournament of Under-Kings

It is well known by mankind that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The fighting game community is no exception, and if there exists an ultimate fighting game tournament in Japan, there must exist a mirrored counterpart. While Tougeki, the Super Battle Opera, exists on one end of the spectrum, on the other is Ura Tougeki, the Reverse Tower Opera.

If you’re wondering, there’s a kanji pun there between Tou (闘 Battle) and Tou (塔 Tower).

So if Tougeki features either the latest and/or greatest games, your Super Street Fighter IV: AE‘s and King of Fighters XIII‘s, Ura Tougeki picks the most obscure and broken fighting games it can, games that aren’t fighting games but get manipulated to act like them anyway, and a few literal button mashers.

Each iteration of Ura Tougeki begins with an Outfoxies tournament and ends with Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition. The Outfoxies is a weird Smash Bros.-esque game that actually predates Smash Bros, and which I discussed previously as an example of an unorthodox fighting game, while SFII Rainbow is Street Fighter II on crack where Blanka’s rolling attacks can go so high as to loop back to the bottom of the screen and what-not.

Those are far and away the highlights of Ura Tougeki, but aside from those I have some particular favorites as well.

The first is Mario Bros., as in the old multi-player arcade game. Whereas the goal in a typical game of Mario Bros. is to defeat all the opponents, the objective of competitive Mario Bros. is to force your opponent to die 3 times and get a game over after 3 rounds, or at least have a higher score. Few things are more exciting than watching Mario punch the platform underneath Luigi and bump him into a fireball while the announcer shouts, “WHAT A SHORYUKEN!”

The second is Hyper Olympics, the first game in a series better known as Track & Field outside of Japan. There’s a certain sense of schadenfreude watching people fail at the ridiculously difficult Hammer Throw section, and overall the tournament is surprisingly exciting. That said, only one Ura Tougeki so far has featured it.

The third is Ice Climber, because the game is absolutely merciless to those who have just lost a life because of how the screen-scrolling works. This game is indeed multi-player.

The Bishi Bashi Champ series is essentially Wario Ware in gameplay.

I’ve included the playlists of all four existing official Ura Tougeki. If you don’t have a Nico Nico Douga account, you can use Nicofire to watch them without one.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s watch some Tower Opera!!

Ura Tougeki 1: The Outfoxies, Samurai Spirits Zero (aka Samurai Sho-Down V) Special, Super Bishi Bashi Champ, Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition

Ura Tougeki 2: The Outfoxies, Hyper Olympics (aka Track & Field), Hyper Bishi Bashi Champ, Soul Calibur III AE, Ashura Blade, Samurai Spirits Zero Special, Mario Bros., Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition

Ura Tougeki 3: The Outfoxies, Hyper Bishi Bashi Champ, Mario Bros., Soul Calibur III AE, Astro Superstars, Ice Climber, Shooting Technical Skills Test, Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition

Ura Tougeki 4: The Outfoxies, Azumanga Daioh Puzzle Bobble, Soul Calibur III AE, Samurai Spirits Zero Special, Hyper Bishi Bashi Champ, Ice Climber, Cyberbots, Mario Bros., Street Fighter II: Rainbow Edition

Manga Artists and Their Stylistic Progression: A Video Demonstration

A while ago, I found a series of videos on Nico Nico Douga wherein manga characters from the first volume of their respective titles are compared to their later incarnations in the same series. In most instances, this is done to show some kind of great contrast, either by a marked improvement in drawing ability or an unusually large shift in style. I think it’d be to everyone’s benefit to take a look, and because I understand that not everyone has a Nico account or wants to fumble with the Japanese language registration, I’ve taken the liberty of uploading all three videos to Youtube. You can find them at the bottom of this post.

Regardless of how exactly the change comes about, the shift or transformation in art style seems to most often come from increasing familiarity. Speaking somewhat from personal experience, when you first start to draw a character, even if you’ve planned them out extensively, there’s still a period of struggle where the character’s design and by extension their personality and physical language are not yet ingrained in your psyche. The more you draw the characters, the more natural they feel to you, possibly eventually reaching a point where you’re so comfortable with them that your aesthetic sense and personality start to shine through the characters, almost subconsciously. It’s like your body and mind start to prioritize what’s really important to you, and I think you will definitely see this happening for at least a good number of your favorite artists.

So take a look, be amazed, and lay down your own thoughts and feelings about art in manga. If you’d all prefer, I can even compile a list of all of the artists and titles mentioned here.

First there’s a Du, and Then I Couldn’t Hear the Rest

When it comes to uniting fans, Nico Nico Douga and episodic blogging have quite a bit in common.

Nico Nico Douga is a popular Japanese streaming video site which helped push popular Japanese memes such as the fusion of voice synthesis and moe, Hatsune Miku, and creating a small revival in the career of gay porn actor Billy Herrington by making clips from his videos running jokes among the community. Its most notable feature however is its unique comments system, where user comments are scrolled from right to left as the video plays. For some it’s an annoying feature which gets in the way of watching the video, but for others it’s the very lifeblood of Nico. Despite most of its content not being live, the comment system allows site users to experience a sense of “community” within the comments, by seeing what people had to say about a particular video at exactly the right moment.

Episodic blogging, or the act of reviewing and discussing individual episodes on a blog, usually as they are released, is even more removed from the concept of “real time,” but just like Nico Nico Douga it has the ability to unite fans by actively engaging in the very zeitgeist of internet fandom itself, by experiencing a series almost as it is airing, and having the format feel a little more permanent and a little more focused than simply sharing talk on an internet forum.

However, the ideal of episodic blogging is not often met, and in some cases this has to do with the shows being blogged about not being particularly good for the concept of episodic blogging. These are the kinds of shows where the blogger might simply go, “Eh some stuff happened this episode. It was all right, I guess.” While knowing that an episode of some show might be average is still something possibly worth knowing, after a while it bogs down episodic blogs as a whole.

Now if there is one current show that I think is very well-deserving of episodic blogging, it is Durarara!

Here you have a show where every episode is so packed with information that the normal custom of summarizing the episode extensively can become a great boon, especially when it comes to recalling the events of a previous episode. It’s also an ideal show for episodic blogging because the theme of the show itself is related to “living in the present,” and practically reflects upon the online anime fandom itself (which is no doubt helped by having a couple of characters who are otaku). Most importantly however is that while the show is an on-going story, its structure is such that each individual episode stands as something to be scrutinized and discussed, with the next one building on top of that.

So for those bloggers out there who have been tackling Durarara! episode by episode, keep it up. It’ll be particularly interesting to see just how your opinions and predictions change over time if at all.

Let Me Tell You About My New Favorite Nico Tag

You want to watch a lot of anime but you don’t have a lot of time. And you want it to all be about robots. Well, let me introduce you to or “Robot Anime Scene Compilations.”

Have you ever wanted to check out the awesome fights in a giant robot anime, but didn’t want to wade through 50 billion episodes and endless filler to reach the few fight scenes that might be somehow significant? Well, the Robot Anime Scene Compilation tag is there for you and me.

Want to watch the greatest fights from Getter Robo or God Mars? Well here’s your chance, and rather than killing 100 hours worth of time, all you need is 30 minutes per video.

Are shows like Grendizer and Baldios too high-brow and high-quality for you? Well then you can take a look at some of the not-so-fondly remembered robots, like Gloizer X and Srungle!

It’s thanks to this tag that I found out Michiru takes over for a captured Hayato towards the end of Getter Robo G, and on top of that she’s actually not useless!

So go forth, watch some robots, and come back a more learned anime citizen.

Sakura-con (was) Live on Nico Nico

Sakura-con this year decided to broadcast a stream LIVE directly to Nico Nico Douga, giving Japanese viewers perhaps their first REAL glimpse at American otaku. I jumped on the stream, eager to see not only what the con itself had in store for us, but also what everyone REALLY goes on Nicovideo for: the comments.

The camera was at the con karaoke bar, and it’s amazing just how much the song selection was indicative of the American fanbase. I jumped on a little late, but highlights include the first Naruto ending theme, the first Inuyasha ending theme (TWICE!), BOTH “Simple and Clean” and “Hikari” (English and Japanese versions of the Kingdom Hearts opening respectively), the Sakura Taisen opening and the dub Pokemon 1st opening sung by almost everybody. The show stealer though was a 10 year old girl who sang the entire 1st Japanese Pokemon opening, Mezase Pokemon Master. Showing more showmanship and honest love of anime than any of the other singers, the Japanese crowd cheered her on, knowing that this was truly a fan, a fan of anime.

Of course, not all of the comments were nice, as they referred to an overweight girl as “Totoro” and “Pizza.” But they were also enamored by some of the more attractive cosplayers. And there was also a bit of a clash between Japanese viewers and non-Japanese ones such as myself, as the latter tended to send comments in English and the Japanese did not appreciate this. Still, things managed to cool down and karaoke continued.

After karaoke was over, the camera hovered over some people organizing their figure collection, which was an unusual mishmash of Warhammer, moe PVC figures and shounen action. At this point I had to stop watching, but I began to wonder if the Japanese people would want a convention like this in Japan. I asked on Nico, and at least one person said he would definitely want to see something like this. The American fanbase’s lack of shame is both its greatest weakness and its greatest strength.

He’s the Angry Video Game Otaku

In a previous post I talked about how someone has had the courtesy of translating episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Abridged Series into Japanese and uploading them to Nico Nico Douga for the Japanese to enjoy. It turns out someone else has been doing the same with James Rolfe‘s most well-known internet phenomenon, the Angry Video Game Nerd (formerly known as the Angry Nintendo Nerd).

And just like with Yugioh Abridged, the fun comes from seeing how the Nico Nico Douga viewers respond to it (they love it), as well as seeing how his very American style of talking translates to a language which just doesn’t have the slang and syntax that English does. So how do you translate James’ expletive-ridden mouth into a language which simply doesn’t have the same take and history in regards to verbal obscenities? The answer is that you don’t.

Whoever the translator is, he’s opted for the spirit and not the letter. “Fuck” gets frequently translated to “kuso.” When there’s a long string of curses, the goal of the translation usually seems to be to convey his anger and not necessarily his exact language and often doesn’t even try to match the number of swears. And in some cases, certain puns or instances of wordplay don’t get translated at all to keep the subtitles simple and easy to read.

So sit back and take it up the ass in a foreign language, courtesy of Nico Nico Douga and Cinemassacre.

Ah so

In my quest to finds clips online that aren’t anime to help with my listening comprehension, I found out that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso aka Rozen Aso has his own Nico Nico Douga channel. What better way to practice than with the man, the legend?

So I say, but actually the most I got out of this was learning a new phrase: マスゴミ (masugomi)

マスコミ (Mass Communication, masukomi) + ゴミ (Garbage, gomi) = マスゴミ (Mass Garbage) or something along the lines of useless politics, etc. talk.

It’s a useful phrase.

Ogi Ogi Douga

While doing a search on Nico Nico Douga the other day, I noticed that my Ogiue and Tohoku-ben video had been uploaded to the site, albeit from an older version, titled as 【ニコニコ動画】荻上の東北弁

Good job, mysterious uploader, though I wish there was a way to give you the updated version.